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Is it difficult to keep your personal feelings separate as a defense attorney?

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Most people when asked would say that they would have trouble defending a murderer to their best effort. As such, I was hoping to get a bit more insight into how public defenders manage to put their personal feelings aside and focus on their job.
#criminal-justice #career #emotional-intelligence #attorney #law-practice #law

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Kyle’s Answer

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One of the issues that comes with a question like this is the misperception that defending a client accused of a criminal charge is an all or nothing prospect: guilty or innocent. Many clients accused of grievous criminal charges are indeed innocent, and deserve every chance to prove such. Many others are indeed guilty as charged. If a truly guilty client has no valid legal defenses--self-defense, heat of passion (mitigates murder to manslaughter), illegal collection of evidence, ect.--then there's not much we can or would do to get the charge dismissed. No attorney can makes invalid claims in court. But even where conviction is certain, there is the necessity to make the final sentence match the crime. Even when speaking of the worst crime, murder, there are gradations of how severe the crime was, and conversely how severe the sentence should be. So that's basically it, make sure the truly innocent are protected, protect everyone's rights by holding police or prosecution malfeasance accountable, and make sure the punishment matches the crime. The public defenders don't want dangerous criminals on the streets any more than prosecutors do, but even true criminals have rights that need to be protected.

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Jennifer’s Answer

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Hi Nathan!

I used to work as a public defender and would get this question a lot. Sometimes you do get some difficult cases and it can be hard. But generally, if you are doing this kind of work you understand that you are not only representing the individual person but also working to ensure the constitutional rights of everyone are protected.

Jennifer recommends the following next steps:

  • Read Gideon's Trumpet
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Kim’s Answer

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Hi Nathan!

I am not an attorney, but have some experience that sort of relates to this question. I am a retired police officer. Shortly after retiring, I started helping a criminal defense attorney work on cases. At first, I really was not sure I could do it. After all, I was a cop, and we lived by the letter of the law: either they did it, or they did not. We didn't get bogged down with the notion of "extenuating circumstances." I did not know how I would adjust to trying to help "guilty" people to beat a charge.

However, almost right away, you start seeing things differently. Your job is to do right by your client - get him or her the best possible resolution of their case. The client has family, kids ,parents, spouse, job, etc - lots of lives are being affected here! And those who are not citizens run the risk of deportation if convicted. And remember, not everyone is guilty. Even those who are, deserve the same "justice" as those who can afford the state's top defense attorneys. At least for me, it became a challenge, and the transition went smoothly! I really love the mental aspect, trying to figure out how to approach these cases!

The work is rewarding, and I hope if you go into it, you will see what I mean!

Kim

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